The Great Fantasy Break: Part Two

As many, many people now know, I have recently embarked on writing an epic fantasy novel, The Kraken and the Clock Tower. My big worry during this writing process is accidentally stealing ideas from other authors, so I am taking a break from reading fantasy, at least for the next couple of months. This feature will chronicle what I read instead, and some general thoughts on it all.

And we are back for week two of the Great Fantasy Break! Last week I talked about The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy and Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. I also haven’t posted a writing update in a little while, mostly because things have been a bit slow on that front. I’m hoping to update soon, but I don’t really want to if all I have to say is “Yeah, I haven’t really written anything in a while.” You’ll all know the moment I get back on track. But until then, here’s two more books I’ve read in the meantime!

gun machine

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Gun Machine was an interesting beast. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Warren Ellis before (including all those comics people assure me are excellent), so I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in beyond what the blurb told me.

For what it’s worth, I feel the story delivered well on the premise. In a manner similar to Mr Mercedes it’s told from the point of view of both the detective investigating the case (the wonderfully cynical John Tallow) and the criminal who owns the room with the hundreds of guns in. Where it differs is in Ellis’s clever use of the third person limited perspective to not actually reveal the identity of the killer during his chapters, referring to him only as The Hunter.

While both villains also suffer from a psychosis of sorts, that of The Hunter brings the novel close to being fantastical, as he warps the reality of New York around him to suit his needs. It’s a wonderful device that led to Ellis throwing in gorgeous evocative descriptions as the city changed around him. Thoroughly engaging.

the big nowhere

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy

The second Ellroy in as many posts, The Big Nowhere is billed as the sequel to The Black Dahlia. In reality, there’s not a lot of continuity between the two. I think the only recurring character was the ambitious and conniving Ellis Loew.

Much like the previous book, The Big Nowhere really does paint a picture of Los Angeles in the 1950s. I can’t tell you whether it’s an accurate picture, I wasn’t there. But it’s certainly an evocative one, and Ellroy has a way with words, as I discussed last time.

There was something about The Big Nowhere I enjoyed less than The Black Dahlia, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The story, which focuses on communist infiltration of Hollywood labour unions, and a Sheriff department cop investigating the murders of two homosexuals while attempting to deal with his own sexuality in a time not known for its LGBT friendly attitudes, is far more interesting to me than the more generic murder mystery of the previous book.

If I had to guess, I was feeling fatigued by the crime genre at this point, given that this was my fourth crime book in a row. I imagine when I return to The Big Nowhere in a few years, my opinion of it will increase dramatically.


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